Diabetes in pets
The obesity epidemic besieging the U.S. populace extends to our pet populations, with an estimated 37 percent increase in overweight or obese dogs and a shocking 90 percent increase in overweight or obese cats in the past 6 to 7 years, according to a USA Today article.
With these increasing rates of obesity in the nation’s pets, researchers and veterinarians have noted corresponding increases in the incidences of diabetes and other associated diseases. Feline diabetes, for example, has experienced a fivefold increase in the last 30 years.
For a diabetic pet, the islet cells of the pancreas fail to produce enough insulin, or some pets can develop insulin resistance. Since insulin allows glucose to pass into cells where it can be metabolized for energy production, insulin deficiencies result in hyperglycemia and glucosuria. Hyperglycemia denotes high blood sugar while glucosuria refers to high urine sugar. Sugar in an animal’s urine will cause him to urinate often and frequently, which ultimately leads to dehydration and increased thirst.
In the early stages of diabetes, pets who cannot metabolize sugar will evidence an increased appetite, which will subside as the disease advances and the effects of malnourishment set in.
That said, pet diabetes is not a death sentence. With proper treatment and a revised diet, pets can live comfortably for the remainder of their lives.
Symptoms of the disease in pets closely mirror those experienced by people. Early signs of diabetes include increased appetite, weight loss, and sleeping, drinking, and urinating more often. Symptoms of more advanced cases of diabetes include loss of appetite, lethargy, general weakness, vomiting, dehydration, and even coma. Cataracts are common in diabetic dogs, though as the disease advances it will begin to affect all organs.
In order to detect the disease in its early stages, it is important that pet owners are familiar with their pets’ normal patterns and behaviors.
If a pet’s diabetes is allowed to advance past the early stages—or, worse yet, if the disease is not detected until the animal collapses in a diabetic coma—the likelihood that a veterinarian is able to treat the disease and save the animal’s life diminishes.
As Danielle Gunn-Moore, professor of feline medicine at the Royal School of Veterinary Studies at Edinburgh University, told The Guardian, "Sadly, we don't often get to see these cats until they have collapsed in a diabetic heap, and once the cat is in a coma, they are very hard to save." To ensure the longevity of your pet, be sure to note her symptoms and consult your veterinarian if her behavior changes notably.
The importance of maintaining your pet at a healthy weight and consulting your veterinarian with any notable changes in your pet’s patterns or habits cannot be stressed enough.
Refer to AAHA’s weight management resources for more information, and ensure that your pet visits your veterinarian at least annually for regular wellness exams. Such preventative care exams help document changes that could save your pet’s life.
By Jennifer Ryan
Based in Denver, Colo., where she lives with her Rhodesian ridgeback mix, Jennifer Ryan writes for the American Animal Hospital Association.
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